Playoffs all come down to matchups
Posted: Thursday January 07, 1999 08:06 PM
Playoff football is about one thing -- which team wins the key matchups. Once you get to the elite eight, you have to remember that old saying about how on any given Sunday (or Saturday as the case may be) -- anyone can pull off the big win.
If you could watch the game and use the "picture in picture" feature to watch the key match ups, then you'd have something. Here are the key matchups the games will swing on.
49ers at Falcons
The 49ers will score their share of points -- they always do. The Falcons must control the clock and continue to run Jamal Anderson.
I was right, wasn't I? Those unsung three are Atlanta's left guard, center and right guard. Add tight end Brian Kozlowski, filling in for injured fullback Bob Christian, and you have the Falcons' inside power game. The winner of this particular battle takes their team to the next round.
Dolphins at Broncos
Forget John Elway, Terrell Davis, Shannon Sharpe and Jason Elam. That's what Jimmy Johnson would like for you to do. He'll try his best to keep the ball away from the most balanced offense in football.
Miami offensive coordinator Kippy Brown will run on first down, run on second down, and then on third-and-5, he'll unleash Dan Marino and the best third-down receivers nobody believes in.
O.J. McDuffie led the NFL in receptions with 90 during the regular season.
At 6-foot-2 and 220-plus pounds and looking more like Kellen Winslow every week is first-year Dolphins receiver Oronde Gadsden. I've watched Gadsden drag normal-sized defensive backs for extra yardage week in and week out.
We all laughed when we heard Gadsden played in the Arena League. Talk to some of the guys he left cleat marks on.
Marino is smart enough to know who to go after in the Bronco secondary.
Darrius Johnson might as well have a big X on his back. The other target is former first-round pick Tory James, he hasn't been the same since he tore up his knee two summers ago. The Dolphins run 5- and 6-yard routes on third down, just squeezing out enough for first downs.
Watch for a slow-paced game by the Dolphins regardless of the early scoring by the Broncos.
Jaguars at Jets
Sorry Deion, but Law is the best corner in the league -- he hits and covers. Sure, the Jags will run rookie Fred Taylor a lot but the scores will come from the wideouts.
The Jets counter with Aaron Glenn and Otis Smith. Glenn is coming off an ankle sprain that he acquired while being torched by the Seahawks' Joey Galloway in the infamous "his helmet looked like the ball" game.
Smith is steady but he'll have to deal with the best route runner in football in McCardell. Now, if only Mother Nature will hold the winds down in the Meadowlands (I just don't think it's right to call it Giants Stadium when the Jets are playing).
Cardinals at Vikings
The biggest matchup of the day pits the king-sized offensive tackles of the Vikings against the we'll-be-pretty-tough-when-we-grow-up defensive ends of the Cardinals.
For the Vikings, that's left tackle Todd Steussie (6-foot-6, 318 pounds) and the big fella, Korey Stringer (6-foot-4 and a slimmed-down 359 pounds). Steussie protects QB Randall Cunningham's blind side.
Arizona right end Simeon Rice (6-foot-5, 259 pounds) would like to make Randall see little stars and birds flying around his head. Stringer would like to pancake rookie left end Andre Wadsworth into next season.
Irvin, once a ten-speed, now performs like an old beach cruiser. It will be interesting to see Williams hooked up with Vikings rookie Randy Moss, who has a couple more gears than anyone in the game. The real winners this weekend are those of you who watch the matchups I've mentioned.
CNN/SI NFL analyst James Lofton offers up his weekly column every Thursday on CNNSI.com. Check back next week for Lofton to answer questions from the CNN/SI NFL Mailbag.
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